Reformer with Results vs. Chairman McCain

John McCain represents an arid state, but a Christian desert ascetic he is not. This is not to suggest, as does Marvin Olasky (page 17), that the Senator is a pagan. Only that despite McCain’s protestations about campaign finance reform, he is very much a part of the system. As Andrew Wheat points out in his review of The Buying of the President 2000, McCain has been in the fundraising business for years. Consider only the Top Five McCain Career Patrons, and you begin to have some idea of who made McCain what he is:

US West, Denver $107,520Hensley & Company, Phoenix $80,300AT&T Corporation, New York $72,250Viacom, Inc., New York $61,750Boeing, Seattle $61,400

McCain’s campaign finance proposals may be laudable — his corporate support makes him less than the peoples’ candidate.

Then there is Governor George W. Bush, and his hypocritical attempt to caricature “Chairman McCain” as a franchise of the lobby, using his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to shake down K Street donors. McCain’s Number 1 Patron gave the Senator $107,000. Bush’s Number 1 Patron is Enron, and in a political lifetime far shorter than McCain’s, W. is into the Houston-based company for more than a half-million dollars. (The Bush family and its surrogates do Enron work in the private and public sector. James Baker III, for example, moved from President George Bush’s cabinet to Enron’s board, then flew to Kuwait with the ex-president shortly after he left office — as an Enron agent. The spectacle of the two of them flying to Kuwait was laid out in embarrassing detail by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker seven years ago. Bush son Neil came along to do oil deals. Marvin Bush, the lesser-known son, caught up with the sales team in time to pitch electronic security fences to replace what the Kuwaitis had lost in the Gulf War.) Enron has taken such a large equity position in the Governor he should have recused himself and his staff from last session’s utility deregulation fight — in which Enron was a major player.

The others in the top five of Bush’s Top Ten Career Patrons include:

Sánchez family, Laredo $320,150Vinson & Elkins, Houston $316,700Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst Inc., Dallas $290,400Bass Family, Fort Worth $293,927

In fact, the Number 10 Bush Patron identified by Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity — Tom Loeffler and the Cleveland law firm of Arter & Hadden — gave Bush almost twice the amount ($210,700) that McCain received from his Number 1 donor.

Such fundraising is not limited to the Party of Lincoln; the “Party of the People” is equally bought. The Top Five in Al Gore Jr.’s Top Ten Career Patrons include:

Ernst & Young International, New York$125,200BellSouth Corporation, Atlanta $104,000The Goldman Sachs Group, New York $99,250D.E. Shaw & Company, New York $98,000Citigroup, Inc., New York $91,950

The Democrats “outsider,” former Senator Bill Bradley, actually leads Gore in the concentration of big money. His top five are:

Citigroup, Inc. and affiliated companies, New York $454,065Merrill Lynch & Co., New York $169,500The Goldman Sachs Company, New York $148,800Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Company, New York $129,675Time Warner, New York $112,770

Bradley is another advocate of campaign finance reform.

In fairness to Bush, he raised his money under Texas campaign laws, which impose no limits, while candidates running for federal office can accept no more than $1,000 from each donor. Yet the “reformer with results” has demonstrated the “reform” he would bring. Bush has argued that caps on individual giving are too low, while shamelessly circumventing them. His Pioneers each pledge to raise $100,000 in $1,000 contributions, in the biggest and most successful bundling scheme used in any election. He raised federal campaign money during the legislative session, violating the spirit of the state prohibition on fundraising during the Lege. By late April he had raised so much he had already decided to ignore the primary caps and refuse the federal matching funds for those who abide by the caps.

The current campaign finance law was put in place in the wake of the Watergate scandal — after George Herbert Walker Bush became the reform chairman of the Republican Party.

Lou Dubose was editor of The Texas Observer from 1987-1999. He’s authored five books, including the best-seller Shrub with Molly Ivins. He currently edits The Washington Spectator.

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Published at 12:00 am CST